New School Chief Taking The Lead

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Casey O'Brien has been on the job only about a week, but has no doubt about a key role he must play as superintendent of the Payson School District.

"I'm (here) to provide strong leadership and I'm anxious to fulfill that challenge," he said.

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Casey O'Brien

The former military pilot, turned educator, defined leadership as a matter of providing proper direction to the district's team of employees and students.

"The more we work together, the healthier organization we will have," he said.

O'Brien also said he has been impressed by the quality of the district staff and said it will be his challenge to attract more top-quality teachers and support staff to replace those who will be retiring or leaving the district.

"It would be ideal if we could grow our own teachers," he said. "It's something we can do, but we must also prepare our students for life outside of Payson."

The new superintendent also has a goal of continuing to improve the quality of education students receive. He said he would like to see higher test scores, more students earning college scholarships and high school students graduating with the skills needed to be successes in the work force.

O'Brien, who is filling the job vacated by the retiring Sue Myers, said he was aware of the recent controversy involving behavior standards for student-athletes.

O'Brien said he was eager for a district discipline committee, which was formed as a result of the controversy, to release the results of its studies and recommendations. He said, however, that he had two requirements for any new districtwide discipline policy.

"The standards must be communicated to parents and they must be enforced uniformly," he said.

O'Brien previously had the job of assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Nogales School District.

O'Brien said before accepting the PUSD position, he spent as much time as possible researching the district from afar and liked what he learned. He was impressed with the community support schools have received. He pointed to the Credit for Kids tax donations and last fall's passage of a bond issue to upgrade schools as evidence.

"Those were mandates of support and we must go forward with them," he said.

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